New Jersey wants to get tough on fracking


TRENTON, NJ – New Jersey is concerned about the impacts of natural gas development projects in neighboring states and is seeking tough regulations to project the water resources in the Delaware River Basin from potential contamination from hydraulic fracturing operations.

New Jersey DEP Commissioner Bob Martin outlined the state’s requirements in formal comments to the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC).

Among them, the state wants a strict limit on the initial number of production wells to be drilled and wants the approval of well pads to be done in stages. The regulations would allow no more than 30 production well pads, not to exceed 300 production wells in total, in the two years immediately following adoption of the rules. At that point, the DRBC would conduct a study to assess the impact of the initial wells and the effectiveness of its regulations before any further drilling could occur.

Regarding fracking wastewater, New Jersey said it will not agree to any fracking discharges until it can be proven they’re not harmful to water quality. Otherwise, the state would require proper management and disposal of fracking waste material.

Regarding water resources, New Jersey would require that use of Basin water for extraction activities be sustainable and would require evidence that water diversions would not cause adverse impacts to other water users or the environment.

While no drilling would actually occur in New Jersey, as many as 10,000 wells could be drilled in the Delaware River Basin in Pennsylvania and New York.

In his formal comments Commissioner Martin wrote: “We will vigilantly ensure that our water is adequately protected and the natural values of the Basin are preserved. We will insist that natural gas regulations, as ultimately promulgated by the DRBC, guarantee the supply and quality of the Delaware River water, on which New Jersey relies for up to one-quarter of our drinking water.”

The DRBC comprises the four Delaware River Basin states – New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, and Delaware – plus the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It has legal authority over both water quality and water quantity issues throughout the Basin.

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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